Martha's Craft Shop


Back in April when we began From The Road, we met Bill Weigelt. I promised we'd meet his wife at a later date. We keep promises around here.

Martha Weigelt grew up on a farm in Claverack, but not just any farm, one of the oldest in the county, still operated by the same family. The land her brother now farms was originally purchased from the Van Rensselaers around 1750.

She grew up doing chores, "I took care of the chickens mostly. It gave me a work ethic, responsibility," she smiles. She also learned to knit and sew by the age of ten, "When you grow up on a farm there isn't too much to play with, especially after the Depression." She made clothes for her dolls and herself, some out of old feedbags. "I love old," she says, referring to the furnishings in her house almost entirely hand-me-downs from the family. "My kitchen table is the one my grandmother used to cut celery on."

One day Bill's family bought the neighboring farm and moved in. Martha went ten years without ever meeting him; she'd heard he was a brat. Then Bill went off to the army. When he returned, Bill and Martha finally met and she discovered he wasn't such a brat after all. Three years later they were married and they set about raising a family, seven children in all.

One day in 1976, the wife of the minister at her church asked if Martha would help out with their Annual Bazaar. The Philmont Reformed Church always holds their Annual Bazaar on the first Saturday in October. This year it's October 7th from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and it promises to be a lot of fun.

Soon after Martha got involved, she suggested they set up shop at her house. There's even a carved sign in the large workroom announcing, "Martha's Craft Shop".

"Sometimes we call it the sweat shop," she jokes.

Every Tuesday beginning on the first Tuesday after Easter and continuing until the Annual Bazaar on first Saturday in October, Martha and nine or ten other ladies voluntarily meet at Martha's to make dolls and other crafts for the Bazaar. These ladies are dedicated; they even arrive early to work. They treat themselves to coffee and cake, work hard and have a great time. One of the ladies sole job is quality control. "She's darn good at it, too. She doesn't miss a thing. I couldn't do it without these ladies," Martha is proud to state. "They're the best, just the best."

What's most amazing is that these ladies are volunteers and receive no pay for their work; all proceeds from the sale of dolls and crafts at the Annual Bazaar benefit the church. The Annual Bazaar is now one of the biggest fundraisers the church has going. It's heartwarming to know there are still people who possess a selfless, giving nature. Their payment is in the pride, in the joy I see reflected in Martha's eyes as she shows me the vast array of dolls and crafts already completed.

The workroom is filled, floor to ceiling with yarn and fabric. Drawers, too, all labeled; feathers, piping, doll shoes, buttons, pipe cleaners, seam tape, heavy duty thread, silver trims, the list is endless. So too are the dolls. There's a huge assortment of witches and bats, pumpkins and crows, hen doorstops, bears galore, mouse people, Amish and Immigrant dolls, elephants and horses and enough Christmas dolls to make Santa's eyes sparkle. There are children's sweaters, clog socks, placemats, even Barbie Beds.

Martha's Craft Shop is a fun place; it abounds with the spirit that went into creating these marvelous creatures.

"Do you ever think maybe they come alive at night?" I ask.

She flashes me that mischievous smile that must have stolen Bill's heart more than fifty years ago, "I don't know about that, but they have personalities, they take on a life of their own."

"Think you'll ever quit making dolls?"

"Long as I have my hands and my eyesight I'll keep making them."

It's my turn to smile, "Good," I whisper.

We'll talk next time, From the Road.

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